Friday, September 6, 2013

A Time and a Place

moments before sunrise
-an ordinary day-

As I sat in my garden this morning anticipating the rising of the sun, I reflected on just how much my worldview has been influenced by the "Western" culture in which I was formed. Growing up as a boy, I can't tell you how many times I heard the phrase, "There's a time and a place for everything" - my parents told me that, my teachers, my priests.

Growing up, I learned that everything in life could be broken down into neatly organized and relatively controllable categories. There was a time and a place for going to school and doing some serious learning. Then, after school there was a time and a place for playing. After that - a time and a place for bed. Sunday was a time for checking in with God. Sunday, unlike the other days of the week, was a "holy" time, and of course, the place to encounter the "holy" was in church.  Everything nice and neat and orderly and all under control.

I also learned that some times of the year were also categorized as special times when you might expect to enjoy life more than other times- Christmas, holidays, summer vacation. The rest of the time was ordinary. In fact, most of the time was categorized as "ordinary time" -  when you just made it through the drudgery of living every day.

In my later years I have come to reject almost everything I have ever learned about "a time and a place for everything."

As I see it, the tendency in our "Western" culture to limit and categorize life is little more than a blatant act of a bloated "ego" -  a perfect example of how we try to take control of and tame the uncontrollable mystery of living every day. And when I believe that there is a "time and a placte for everything," I necessarily "limit" the possibilities of the everyday miracle of living. 

School or work is the time and place for being serious and "applying yourself," and it is "not" the time or place for fun, or rest, or fresh new discovery.  And while holidays and vacations may be the time for renewal and excitement, everyday living doesn't fall into that category and so everyday living is not a time for renewal, but rather a time to get through it all. And of course if it's not Sunday (or whatever day categorized as the "Holy" day and you aren't in church (or mosque or temple), it's not the time and the place for meeting "God".

As I sat in my meditation garden this morning I caught myself thinking, "nothing special is going on today - summer is over, no appointments scheduled, a really bland and ordinary day ahead of me today." I immediately realized that I had reverted back to my old "time and a place" mentality.  

Who knows what endless possibilities might come at me today as I live and move and breathe in the endless flow of an abiding, uncontrollable and unlimited Holy Presence? Who knows what I might experience as the universe presents itself to me and my life flows on in it's endless song?

There is no distinction between a holy day and an ordinary day. There is no such time as ordinary time-all time is extraordinary.  There are no neat little controllable categories - there is no "time and a place" for anything.  Everything in life and about life is unanticipated and uncontrollable, passionate "possibility."

Thich Nhat Hanh, one of favorite Buddhist teachers, has a little book of "mindfulness verses" for everyday use - little mantras to be recited and repeated throughout the ordinariness of everyday living (washing dishes, taking a shower, sweeping the floor, etc.) as a reminder that every moment of every day is a sacred moment  - every moment filled with the flow of the universe. 

This morning as I began my "ordinary" day, I sat in the garden and chanted one of these mantras:

Waking up this morning.
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live life fully in each moment 
and to look at all beings with the eyes of compassion.
Walking on earth is a miracle.
Each mindful step reveals the wonder of it all. 

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